Self-care: Morning Begins at Night

Happy Equinox, everyone! Whether your time zone has just gone retrograde or been blessedly stable, there’s no denying the light is shifting. What a perfect time for us to consider evening routines.

Evening routines are not the mere opposite of morning routines. We don’t DO a bunch of things in the morning and then reverse them all at night.

But at the same time, we do get a kind of reset every 24 hours, which is pretty incredible to think about.

If you want to make the most of it, I think the purpose of end-of-day rituals and routines is at least two-fold:

One is to get us set up for a good day tomorrow.

The other is to get us set up for a good night’s sleep, which will help get us set up for a good day tomorrow. Good days: we are gonna come at it from all sides.

Here are some little rituals and thoughts that I have found useful for a good tomorrow:

  • Closing bells are not just for the stock exchange. I like to make a ceremony for the end of the business day, and I do have an actual bell. I tidy the desk and I also declare victory. Out loud. Usually my victory cry is “OK, good enough!”
  • And that marks the end of work of all kinds, except those related to body care. Dinner is made and the washing up done, face and teeth get cleaned, but no other chores.
  • As darkness falls, there’s also an end to problem solving. I think it’s Oliver Burkeman who suggests that to stop yourself fretting in the night, you set a rule of “no problem solving after dark.” Life-changer.
  • As my smart friend and mentor Havi Brooks says: we have way less capacity than we think. So I really try to keep it simple. A big checklist just whips up wakeful energy. Evening routines need to have more non-doing than doing.
  • I try very hard to stay away from screens for about two hours before lights out. This is controversial! Blue light isn’t a problem for everyone. But I think for me, sleep is dependent on some of the set-up routines that put me in the right state, and watching a high-key k-drama is not that state.
  • People do say those blue-blocker glasses are pretty good though, and I’ve seen some cute ones.
  • If sleep is a concern, I will remind you of my best personally tested tip even though I jinx myself each and every time I share it. This one is for the morning, so we talked about it in February: take a quick eye-opener walk and get some daylight on the retinas. This sets your circadian clock to alertness during daytime hours and gets your system winding down at night and for me at least has improved the quality of sleep. (Obviously no need to tinker with any natural rhythms that are working for you, whatever they may be. This is just for them as wanting a reset.)
  • The Ukrainian yoga savant Andrey Lappa says, “Morning begins at night,” which I think he means something like, “Get your workout clothes ready to go so you can roll out of bed and hit the stude first thing in the am” There is a huge payoff in frictionless mornings, for sure. I don’t go to the yoga studio, but I do like to pick out an outfit.
  • This is the fussiest and most antique practice ever, but I sometimes do what my grandmother always did, and set the table for breakfast. (Grandma had Blue Willow, which I coveted. I have blue this and blue that and blue slightly chipped, but they all look like cousins.)

Now a caveat: I am a dyed-in-the-wool morning person. The literal worst day of the year for me, every single year, is the day we turn the clocks forward. Every night for the next ten days I look at the clock that says 8:30pm, and I know that it’s really only mid-afternoon in Last Week Time, yet I’m literally dying and have to go to bed.

But of course: No sleep ’til clean face. Ugh!

Anyway, all that to say: If you’re a night owl, your evening routines might be very different. What is a nighttime ritual if it takes place at 4:30am? I am so curious. In the comments, I would love to hear ideas from both the early birds and the nighthawks, and everyone in between.

IMAGE CREDIT: Sterrenbeeld ram (detail), Henri van der Stok, 1880-1946, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

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